Award-winning ‘Delta Jewels’ author set for campus visit, public lecture

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The visual journalist and award-winning author of the book “Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom” will visit Penn State and present work from the book, a project built around profiles of African-American grandmothers living in the Mississippi delta.

Alysia Burton Steele will be featured during a free public session at 7 p.m. Monday, March 14, in Carnegie Cinema. Her book, released in April 2015, is a collection of formal portraits and oral histories from church mothers, including civil rights activist Myrlie Evers — wife of the late NAACP leader Medgar Evers.

“Delta Jewels” was accepted into the Library of Congress and has been honored and positively reviewed by media organizations and news outlets across the country. The book was also a finalist for the Jessie Redmon Fauset Award for nonfiction.

Steele, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi, previously worked for more than 12 years as a photojournalist for several newspapers, including the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she was deputy director of photo and picture editor. In 2006, she was part of a team for the Dallas Morning News that won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news as the result of its coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

Steele is a Pennsylvania native who grew up in a biracial family in Harrisburg. Her African-American grandmother died before they could establish a close relationship and “Delta Jewels” began in part as a quest to learn more about women of her grandmother’s generation. The book, envisioned as an oral history with accompanying photos, grew into a mix of those histories rooted in the Civil Rights era, as well as Steele’s observations about African-American life.

Copies of "Delta Jewels" will be available for purchase at the event.

Last Updated March 14, 2016